PETALING JAYA: Sarawak’s land disputes and territory encroachment issues can be reduced by including natives in conversations on development, said Suhakam Commissioner Jerald Joseph.
“If the state needs land, make the indigenous people partners.
“They are not against economic development, they just want to make decisions about their own land, ” he said.
The Sarawak native courts have seen hundreds of land disputes filed, with some cases reaching the Federal courts.
According to lawyer Joshua Baru, these disputes follow a clear pattern.
“There is always an encroachment by a third party for development purposes, either timber companies, oil-palm companies or quarry licenses, ” he said.
But one significant obstacle stopping natives from being part of the discussion regarding their land is a lack of information.
“Most native claimants don’t know that a particular license or provisional lease has been issued by the government over a piece of land until it is very late, ” said Baru, adding that many times, natives only realised when their land had been bought over when “the machinery is rocking up to the front door.”
Watch: What rights do Sarawak's native people have to the land they live on? | Newsflash